Notes from the 2017 New England Studies Program (FULL SERIES)

By Gail Laird

The Historic New England Organization is the oldest, and most comprehensive regional heritage organization in our nation. They bring history to life while preserving the past for everyone interested in exploring the authentic New England experience. Historic New England owns and operates thirty-seven historic sites in five states.  The region’s rich history is shared through their collections, programs, properties, and family stories that document more than four hundred years of life in New England.

They serve the public through five key areas: Historic Properties, Collections, Education Programs, Preservation Services, and Archives and Publications.

As a co-owner of Halliday House and due to my ongoing interest in New England homes, gardens, and furnishings I enrolled and attended their 6 day Study Program for 2017. I was delighted to experience the history of how New England houses were formed and how people used materials to make these houses into homes.

Day 6

Morning lectures:

Colonial Redux: The Revival of American Architecture and Art

Gerald W. R. Ward, Senior Consulting Curator and Katharine Lane Weems Senior Curator Emeritus, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Creating a History for New England’s Architecture: The Colonial Revival from the Civil War to the First World War

Kevin D. Murphy, Andrew W. Mellon, Chair in the Humanities and Professor and Chair of the History of Art, Vanderbilt University


Tour of Cogswell’s Grant (c. 1732)

Richard C. Nylander and Nancy Carlisle

Tour Beauport, the Sleeper-McCann House (1907)

Richard C. Nylander and Nancy Carlisle


We met at the Otis House for a very early bus departure to Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA, where we were met by Gerald Ward and Katharine Weems.  The lecture, “Colonial Redux:  The Revival of American Architecture and Art”.  This lecture was followed by Kevin Murphy speaking and showing slides of “Creating a History for New England’s Architecture.  The Colonial Revival, the Civil War to the First World War”. The morning flew by as the outside clouds were threatening a storm.  Fortunately we were housed inside a structure at Coolidge Point: The Thomas Jefferson Memorial built in 1968.  This Colonial Revival home was fashioned after those in Williamsburg, VA and was built for a descendent of Thomas Jefferson.  We did tour the home after lunch and the sky cleared so that we could leave for the next tour in Essex, MA.

Cogswell’s Grant was built in 1732 with additions through the centuries.  The basic building is an early 18th C farmhouse with low heavy beamed ceilings, wide board wooden floors and 6 over 6 windows.  The house is loaded with folk art, mostly colorful from textiles to paintings and sculptures.  It is a folk art lover’s dream come true.  I could imagine being locked in for a weekend by mistake and loving it.  Since the rooms are small, we split into 2 groups to be led by Richard Nylander and Nancy Carlisle, one upstairs and one downstairs.  After determining our group number, we donned our booties and stepped inside.  All I can write is WOW times 100.  For me, the excitement is in the imagining of the artists creating the folk art.  What drives a person to find a piece of wood and to fashion it into a cane with a dog head for the handle?  Even when colors and materials were scarce, how did  the people create such wonders?  Hopefully my photos will tell a story that intrigues your imagination and incites a love for Folk Art.

Halliday House is filled with many pieces of Folk art similar to what was found in the Cogswell Grant house. We have an Overmantel painting, Grain Painted Blanket Box, Horse Weathervane, Tavern Game Table, Sailing Ship Diorama, Shore Birds, and a Red Coverlet. Maybe that is why I found myself most at home here. All of these would fit right in at the house. The New England Historical’s website says the house was decorated over the 60 years that the Little’s lived there, with an eye for visual delight rather than historical accuracy. Their home is rich in atmosphere and full of strong, even quirky character.

The final home is the Sleeper-McCann House built in 1907 for the decorator-owner.  Named Beauport, it rests at the water’s edge in Gloucester, MA.  Due to the lifestyle of the owner, there is an abundance of bedrooms, bathrooms, and dining rooms while having a scarcity of sitting or living rooms.  To my way of thinking, the home is exceedingly eccentric and eclectic, and certainly worthy of the tour.  Once again Richard Nylander and Nancy Carlisle split us into two groups so that we could better see and hear each of them–one upstairs and one downstairs.  The views were considered in the total layout of the home and especially in the dining rooms, (of which there are 5).  We completed our tour with a champagne reception on the Beauport Terrace.  There was a final bus ride back to Boston and some sad goodbyes to new friends.

Exterior of Cogswell’s Grant

Earliest Painting in Home 1642

Desk at Colonial Revival Home, Coolidige Point

Decorated Box

Exterior of Sleeper-McCann House

Cogswell’s Grant

Folk Carved Shore Bird

Folk Painting

Folk Portraits

Game Board on Hooked Rug on Tavern Table

Exterior of Sleeper-McCann House

Game Board

Hooked Rug

Decorated Box

Richard Nylander

Grain Painted Door

Horse Weathervane

Overmantel Paintings

Wall of Amethyst Glass

Thomas Jefferson Portrait

Lion Hooked Rug

Homespun Covered Beds

Windsor Rocker Writing Chair with Drawers

Paint Decorated Blanket Box

Folk Carved Flying Goose

Nina Fletcher Little’s Desk

Early Dolls

Folk Carved Sculpture

Thomas Jefferson Medallion

Note with Medallion

Day 5

Morning lectures:

What’s New at Quincy House?

Curators Decorative Arts Tour Nancy Carlisle

Bringing it all Back Home, Conservation and Quincy House

Alex Carlisle, Supervising Conservator, Historic New England

Wild and Colorful: American Victorian Architecture, 1840-1890

Richard Guy Wilson, Chair, Department of Architectural History, University of Virginia

Victorian Furniture: Design Run Amok or Inspired   Creativity?

Nancy Carlisle


Quincy House (c. 1770)

Eustis Estate and the exhibition, Mementos: Jewelry of Life and Love from Historic New England


We had an early bus ride to Quincy, MA, to tour the home, built in 1770, of the first Josiah Quincy.  A portrait of Quincy hangs above the fireplace in the main parlor.  Two  lectures preceded  the tour.  Nancy Carlisle gave us a good description of life in this home through four Josiah Quincys and ending in the 1880s with Eliza Susan Quincy who was a descendant and chief documentarian of the home and all artifacts. As a result, we got a good glimpse of the 1770 home along with photos and records from the 1850s when the 3 sisters moved into the home and up until Eliza’s death in the 1880s.   An interesting difference in the central hall shows the staircase opposite the common placement.  Here the stairs face the back door whereas entering the front door shows the back of the staircase with wainscoting  about 3′ from the floor and then the wallpaper continues up and over.  The Quincy family was very wealthy and used their wealth to the betterment of Boston and the surrounding areas. This was the Quincy summer home and included some 300 acres.

After a bus ride to Milton, MA to the Eustis Estate,1878 we enjoyed a lunch at the Estate and Study Center.  The lectures that followed were:   American Victorian Architecture, 1840-1890  and Victorian Furniture: Design run amok or inspired creativity?

As we approached the home on foot, we came upon a standing frame.  Questions ensued….What is that for?  It seems that this property is newly opened and that frame is for those of us who want to be framed in front of the estate either by another with a camera or by taking a “selfie”.  Not at all the only relaxed museum aspect of the Eustis Estate. The tour is self guided throughout this huge estate with interactive elements and with nothing “off limits” to touch or to sit upon. What a freeing concept!  The dark woods of the interior are an obvious change from the earlier architecture we have observed.  Whereas, the exterior elements are varied and roof lines complex.

We did have an “add on” visit to an easement house with an agreement with Historic New England. The current owner lives in the house and was generous to allow our visit after an already full day of tours and lectures. Her home was built in 1891 and had many of the original elements still intact, along with a treasure trove of the architectural and the carvers plans and tools. This home is in Newton, MA

Quincy House

Portrait of Josiah Quincy

Eustis Museum Brochure Photo

Eustis Parlor

Interactive Space in Eustis Museum

Quincy House Parlor

Quincy House Front Staircase

Eustis Estate Museum

Eustis Estate Museum Front Entrance

Newton, MA Add on Visit, Easement House

Day 4

Morning lectures:

Revitalizing the Historic House Museum

Kenneth C. Turino, Manager of Community Engagement and Exhibitions, Historic New England

Federal Furniture in New England

Robert Mussey, independent conservator


Gardner-Pingree House (1804)

Tour of Historic New England’s Library and Archives

Lorna Condon, Senior Curator of Library and Archives, Historic New England


Day four of the six day tour is as exciting as the first. While still in Boston, Ken Turino, manager of community exhibitions gave a breathtaking lecture “Revitalizing the Historic House Museum” which was very well received.  Many in our group of 25 are employed and/or connected with museums.  Robert Massey, an independent conservator, made the distinctions in his lecture between earlier furniture styles and federal style easy to understand through the use of slides.

We left Boston for lunch at the historic Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, MA.  What a treat it was to be seated at small tables and be served delicious New England delicacies.  We could just dash across the street from the hotel to our tour of the Gardner-Pingree House, a magnificent example of  a federal home of a wealthy family in Salem, MA. built in 1804.  This is a grand home as seen from the photo of the exterior.  The very colorful kitchen  with hanging cooking utensils (like these 18th C utensils in our shop) and tools depicts the cooking center as it was.  Children (see high chair) were fed here typically until their manners would allow them to eat in the dining room.  Windsor Arm Chairs would have also been a common piece of furniture. Upstairs, the expensive bed coverings graced the four poster beds of the times.  Before leaving by the front door, I took this shot of the heavy brass door lock and oversized key

This Studies program seems easier to follow since it has been organized chronologically. It really shows the progression of development of houses and peoples lives.

Back to Boston for a tour of Historic NE’s library and archives and we wrap up a long day of important learning,

Gardner-Pingree House

High Chair

 Built In Closet

Front Door Detail of Hardware



Classical Decorations


Guest Bedroom

Day 3

Morning lectures:

Eighteenth-Century American Furniture

Brock Jobe, Professor Emeritus of American Decorative Arts, Winterthur Museum


Tour of Otis House (1796)

Richard C. Nylander, Curator Emeritus, Historic New England


(furniture, ceramics, and textiles)

Brock Jobe, Nancy Carlisle, Senior Curator of Collections and Laura Johnson, Associate Curator, Historic New England

Tour of Collection Storage Facility, Haverhill, Mass.

Lecture and Reception

The Architecture and Landscape of Federal New England
Ritchie Garrison, Director, Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, University of Delaware

Today focused mostly on 18th C New England furniture and life with our Winterthur professor, Brock Jobe kicking off the first lecture of the morning.  Staying at the Otis House, Richard Nylander lectured next and then led the tour of the Harrison Gray Otis House, (where we have been meeting all week).  Downstairs we examined the various vivid colors on walls, wallpapers, and moldings–some with applied classical decorations.  The dining room table has wine, fruit, and pastries as if we were invited to sit down and partake.  Upstairs picture shows Sally Otis’s lovely four poster bed with elaborate decorations and exquisite textiles.  Here we learned that fireplaces upstairs were not lit unless someone was ill or in bed after childbirth.  It was fun to get beyond the auditorium to view the various rooms in this 1796 home of Sally and Harry Otis on Cambridge St. in Boston overlooking Beacon Hill.

We took a box lunch on the bus to Haverhill, MA where the Historic New England offices are located along with the Collection Storage Facility where all ages of items are stored in a temperature controlled setting.  Thanks to Brock Jobe and Nancy Carlisle, several hours were devoted to workshops covering textiles, ceramics and furniture from the collections, followed by an entire tour of the Storage Facility.  While there, we saw examples of silhouettes similar to the ones in our Featured section. We got close to the Schoolgirl Art that was popular in the day and one of the people who made it possible for girls to receive this education.  Her portrait hangs next to their art and her name is Clementine Beech, the owner of the school near Boston.

After a bus ride back to the Otis House, our last lecture of the night featured J. Richie Garrison from Winterthur speaking on The Architecture and Landscape of Federal New England.

Ottis House


Marble Fireplace Surround

Dining Room Table

Classical Decorations

Portrait of Clementine Beech

Example of School Girl Art

Day 2

Morning lectures:

Eighteenth-Century Architecture

James L. Garvin, State Architectural Historian (retired), New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources

New England House and Home

Jane C. Nylander, President Emerita, Historic New England


Tour of Moffatt-Ladd House (1763)

Barbara McLean Ward, Ph.D., Director and Curator, Moffatt-Ladd House and Garden and James L. Garvin

Tour of Lady Pepperrell House (1760)

Reception at the home of Jane C. Nylander and Richard C. Nylander

“Eighteenth Century Piscataqua”.  Our group met at the Otis House for the bus to Portsmouth, NH where our first lecture was about 18th C architecture by James Garvin, State Historian (retired), NH Division of Historical  Resources.  A tour of the Moffatt-Ladd House, 1763 followed, led by Barbara Ward and James Garvin.  In the grander homes of the 18th Century, we can view the tea service and how that would have been served.  In a more informal room with bright green woodwork, we see a pair of Windsor armchairs near a fireplace along with a spinning wheel.  Fireplaces were used for cooking and for heat, some only for heat with cooking allowed only in certain rooms.  In order to keep heat inside, shutters were used to cover most or all of the glass windows.  Children were relegated  to top floor rooms where their beds, personal belongings and toys were housed.  I am always intrigued by the toys of the time, how few or how many, the colorful and the educational, complete with a tea set and dolls similar to these.  It seems that toys were practical in nature, either to teach or to help children to create, rather than time fillers.
After the tour, we lunched at the home in an historical barn which had been moved to the site.  Jane Nylander lectured on “New England House and Home”.   Always inspiring, she showed through slides the glorified pictures of early New England life and spoke of the hardships as well.
A short bus ride to Kittery Point, ME was followed by a visit to the Lady Pepperrell House and Gardens,  1760.  Since this home is an easement house and owned by others, we were not allowed to take photos, but I can describe the beauty of the home and land.  One thing that struck me is that all the paint on the exterior of the buildings was the same light buttery yellow color–trim and all.  And it was striking as a contrast to the green of the lawns and the vibrant colors of the flowers.  We learned that the vast porch was added later, after the death of Lady Pepperrell who was a Loyalist and retained her title even after the Revolution.
The day was wrapped up with a reception at the home of Jane and Richard Nylander in their early American home and lovely gardens.  An exquisite day!


Moffatt-Ladd House

Marble Fireplace

Paint color accurate

Toy room

Interior shutters

Tea Time in Late afternoon or early evening

Trundle bed on 3rd floor

Lady Pepperrell House

Day 1

Morning lectures:

How Colonial New England Became Britain’s Pottery Barn

Cary Carson, Vice President, Research Division (retired), Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Seventeenth-Century Architecture

Claire Dempsey, Associate Professor of American and New England Studies, Boston University


Boardman House (c. 1687), Saugus, Mass., and Gedney House (1665), Salem, Mass.

Cary Carson and Ben Haavik, Team Leader, Property Care, Historic New England

The Boardman House was erected in 1692 with additions in 1696.
As you can see in the picture, three centuries of walls show in the doorway to the front room. Notice the enormous beams used in construction and the fact that the same beams could be cut away to make room for taller people. The fireplace used for heating and cooking dominates the room.

Next 17th C home tour was the Gedney in Salem, MA. built 1665.  The photo at the bottom on the lower right, shows 17th C and later 18th C lathe and plaster boards and the historic progression (right to left) of the manufacture of nails. Since both home tours were designed to show New England Architecture elements the interior had been stripped of plaster walls, etc to show structural elements.

Both lecturers focused on 17th C New England Architecture and methods of building.  The main lecturer now retired from Colonial Williamsburg (Vice President of research division), Cary Carson, responded when I asked him how he got into this work, that he started at Winterthur and just couldn’t stop.  He guesses he was a born archeologist.

Boardman House

Early Nails

Enormous beams

Gedney at Salem, MA.

Gedney at Salem, MA.


Gedney at Salem, MA.

Stone Benches

Interior of walls